No. 4 Florida Gymnastics Uses Nation’s Season-Best Total to Take Gators Link to Pink Meet over No. 14 LSU
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Although they were wearing pink, the No. 4 Florida gymnastics team (7-1, 3-1 SEC) was red-hot Friday night, upping the nation’s season-best total to 197.85 to take the win over No. 14 LSU (2-7, 2-3 SEC) in the Sixth Annual Gators Link to Pink, presented by Nationwide. The Tigers also posted a season-best 196.85 to take second.
The Gators’ previous season-high of 197.775 in their last home appearance on Jan. 27 held the nation’s top position until Florida raised it tonight.
The home win came in front of 8,112 fans—the seventh-largest gymnastics crowd in school history—at the Gators Link to Pink meet. The “pink” meets are part of a SEC initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer and all league team will compete in a pink meet this season. The two teams put aside their school colors and wore pink to show their support in the fight against breast cancer.
Junior All-American Marissa King’s post-meet words about the competition could be echoed by anyone on the Gator roster.
“It is one of my favorite competitions of the season,” King said. “It has a great crowd and is for a great cause.”
A Gator claimed at least a share of each event title Friday, including junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson matching Florida’s season-best total of 39.60 to give her an even dozen career all-around wins. LSU freshman Lloimincia Hall was second at 39.45 while King and LSU freshman Rheagan Courville shared third at 39.40.
Dickerson wasn’t pleased with her performance last weekend at defending NCAA champion Alabama and used the week of training to make the needed corrections. Her all-around total this week was a 0.25 improvement from a week ago.
“It was great because I made a few mistakes last week. I was a little disappointed in myself,” Dickerson said. “I went in the gym and worked hard on the landings and mistakes that were made.”
Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn could see how Dickerson’s attention to detail in the past week of training benefited her tonight.
“She is just so calm. She worked really hard this week, especially on her landings and her polish, and I think that it was wonderful to see that in her performance tonight,” Faehn said. “She is just continuing to get better.”
Dickerson also shared the evening’s uneven bars title at 9.90 with three other Gators – sophomores Alaina Johnson and Mackenzie Caquatto as well as King. The bar win was the third consecutive for Caquatto, the third of the season for Johnson, the second for King and the first for Dickerson.
Faehn noted that Caquatto had changed her bar routine for this meet – a routine that is already jammed with difficult skills.
“We changed up her bar routine tonight. Her first release move is called a Pak salto, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of the best performed in the country, I believe,” Faehn said. “We wanted to show her variety and she did a great job.”
Johnson was also a double event winner Friday, as the All-American opened her competition by matching her collegiate-best of 9.95 to claim her first vault title of the season and the sixth of her career. It was the third time Johnson had earned a 9.95 on her Yurchenko layout with a full twist vault, with the last coming the previous time she wore pink at the Gators Link to Pink on Jan. 28, 2011.
Collegiate-best marks gave Florida freshman Kytra Hunter the evening’s balance beam and floor exercise titles. She used a 9.925 to take her second beam win of 2012, as she had posted her previous high of 9.85 in three previous meets.
As the final competitor of the meet, Hunter wowed the crowd with her floor mark of 9.975 to take her fourth win on the event. She is the first Gator freshmen – and the fifth in school history – to earn the nearly perfect mark on floor exercise.
Her score finished a strong Florida floor set, as Dickerson was runner-up by matching her collegiate-best of 9.95. King opened her tumbling passes with a double layout for the first time this season, earning a 2012 high of 9.925 to complete the Florida sweep of the top three final floor spots. Junior Randy Stageberg also posted a collegiate-best of 9.90 Friday.
It was the fourth different floor lineup for the Gators this season. Stageberg, who has been in each of the six floor lineups, noted that this team can perform well on the event regardless of slight changes in personnel.
“It’s amazing to watch each person and what they can bring to the table, especially having a lot of younger girls on the team. Ashanée (Dickerson) has been a rock for us since freshman year and then Kytra (Hunter) did amazing,” Stageberg said. “That’s how we work. We work to perform to our best when we compete. It is nice seeing everyone do that.”
Florida’s floor total of 49.625 leads the nation on the event this season and is just 0.025 away from the school record last matched in 2011.
Last week at Alabama, Faehn thought it was a good, but not great, performance as the team posted a 196.90. Areas that needed sharpening gave the Gators plenty to focus on in this week’s training.
“I think we worked really hard all week on making those improvements from last week on our finishes, landings and trying to get stuck landings, but also showing more control with our finishes and our polish. That showed through tonight,” Faehn said.
“On vault, the finishes were so much cleaner,” she continued. “We started out really strong on bars again – five out of the six athletes stuck their dismount, which is really great. On beam, we were aggressive. All of our six athletes hit really great routines. Stepping into floor, what was wonderful was that different athletes came in tonight and made the lineup flow just as well as it flowed with other athletes. It’s nice to see that we can make changes and adjustments on the lineup and it doesn’t affect the flow or the dynamic of the event.”
Tonight’s meet airs on ESPNU (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 251 or 1251) Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Florida now faces No. 13 Auburn on the road next Friday. Meet time is set for 8 p.m. ET in the Auburn Arena.
Alabama Gymnastics Beats Kentucky, 196.000-194.700
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 2 ranked Alabama gymnastics team beat Kentucky 196.000-194.700 in Memorial Coliseum Friday night in front of 1,644 fans who braved the snow outside.
“This was one of those blue collar nights,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “The ladies weren’t perfect, but we made some adjustments that will help us step forward.”
Alabama was led by junior Ashley Sledge, who won the all-around with a 39.175. For the first time this season, the Crimson Tide was led by a different gymnast on each event. The Crimson Tide goes to 7-0-0 overall and 4-0-0 in Southeastern Conference competition, while Kentucky fell to 3-5-0 overall and 0-4-0 in the SEC.
“This was one of those nights that we worked really, really hard to get the score we had,” Patterson said. “This is one of the times that I don’t want the ladies to focus on the score, but just focus on our performance.”
Leading by more than a point going into the final rotation, Alabama scored a 48.850 on the balance beam led by sophomore Kim Jacob’s meet-high 9.85 to close out the win. Alabama started the night off with a 49.000 on the uneven bars led by senior Geralen Stack-Eaton’s meet-best 9.85.
The Tide then posted a 49.1 on the vault led by a meet-best 9.9 from junior Marissa Gutierrez. Sledge posted a 9.875 in the anchor position on the floor exercise, leading the Tide to a 49.050 team score.
Senior Ashley Priess, who won the all-around last weekend against Florida, went on just two events against Kentucky after being limited in practice this past week due to illness. Other lineup shifts included sophomore Lindsey Fowler making her debut in Alabama’s competitive lineup, leading off the floor lineup, and Stack-Eaton going on the floor exercise for the first time this season.
“We were able to move some things around a little bit and still come out with a Southeastern Conference win,” Patterson said. “Now we just have to get on an emotional high again for Arkansas next week.”
The Tide returns home Friday, Feb. 17 against Arkansas for the eighth annual Power of Pink meet. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online at RollTide.com.
Gym Dogs Steam Past Razorbacks
ATHENS, Ga. - Kat Ding posted a career-high 39.550 in the all-around to lead the No. 6 Georgia Gym Dogs (4-2, 3-1) past the No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 3-2), 196.825 - 195.875, Friday night.
"I'm just proud of Kat and the progress she's shown over the past four years," said head coach Jay Clark. "To have grown from a two-event specialist when she started into a situation where she is a bonified all-arounder, I'm very proud of her. I'm proud of the growth and the mental toughness that she has. She and Gina (Nuccio) provide us with a little bit of an edge in terms of competitive nature."
Ding's all-around title is the first of her career. Noel Couch also competed in the all-around and posted a 39.300 to place second. The meet will air on CSS on Feb. 15 at 9 p.m.
"This meet says that we are resilient and that we are able to absorb our self-inflicted blows, like we did tonight," continued Clark. "I told our team that while we're happy with a victory, I'm not happy with how they let circumstances dictate their mindset a little too much. That's something that we've been harping on. That's something we've been working on. I'm very proud of the fact that when we make mistakes, we continue to show the ability to right the ship and plow right through that. At some point, we're going to have to grow into a team that can compete for a championship. We've got to eliminate the mistakes and not have to dig ourselves out of the hole.
"I thought scoring was tighter than both teams had seen, either at home or away, to this point this year. I think that effected both teams in terms of their performance. But a mentally strong team won't allow circumstances to change the way they compete. That's something that we talk about and address; that we're not going to allow environment, scoring, the other teams gymnastics, we're going to stay with our attitude and the things that we're trying to do."
The Gym Dogs started the night on the vault and were led by a 9.900 from Ding. Kaylan Earls and Sarah Persinger scored 9.875 and 9.850, respectively, which are season best scores for both gymnasts on the vault. The Razorbacks started the night on bars and after the first rotation, Georgia led 49.275-48.900.
Next up for Georgia was the bars, where it was once again led by Ding, who scored a 9.950. Gina Nuccio notched a 9.875 and Couch and Chelsea Davis recorded a pair of 9.800s. The Gym Dogs put up a 49.175 on bars and Arkansas moved to the vault and posted a 49.300. At the halfway point the Gym Dogs were still leading, 98.450-98.200.
Moving on to the third rotation, Shayla Worley anchored the Gym Dogs on beam and led with a 9.900. Ding tied her season best 9.850, Couch scored a 9.825 and Earls and Persinger each posted a 9.800. Collectively, Georgia scored a 49.175 on the beam, while the Razorbacks recorded a 48.850 on the floor. Moving into the final rotation, the Gym Dogs increased their lead 147.625-147.050.
On floor, Georgia was led by Couch with a 9.875 and Earls, Ding and Nuccio recorded a trio of 9.850s. Ding and Persinger competed on the floor for the first time this season, while Earls set a new season best with her performance. The Gym Dogs posted a 49.200 on floor and Arkansas out up a 48.825 on beam.
The Gym Dogs return to action on Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. when they host Kentucky at Stegeman Coliseum.